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I had a fantastic couple of days last weekend exploring the ‘road less travelled’ in Wales on my bike. Surrounded by photographic delights it was tempting, but sadly impossible, to stop every five minutes however there was one place that was irresistible – Llanthony Priory. Established in the 12th century in the wild and beautiful Vale of Ewyas in the Black Mountains of south east Wales, it was this wild location “fixed amongst a barbarous people” that proved its undoing. Henry VIII rang the final death knell with his Dissolution of the Monastries in the 16th century after which it gradually fell to ruin until becoming the artistic inspiration it is today. Right – history lesson over ……. if only I’d found it so interesting at school!

This beautiful place seemed to me the perfect ‘Gothic ruin’ with heavy crumbling walls and layers of receding perfectly formed arches. With the massive walls dark against a moody sky filters weren’t going to work, only an HDR would do. My tripod was uselessly stashed on my bike so I set up auto bracketing, rapid fire shutter release, took a deep breath and pressed the trigger. Fortunately we had the place to ourselves so only my husband heard the machine gun staccato bounce off the fractured walls. After making the effort to carry a tripod, not the easiest thing to do on a motorbike, I really ought to keep it with me! Fortunately, although it’s not ideal, this hand held technique works pretty well and the software cleverly sorts out any small misalignments.  At the time I had a mono image in mind but thought I’d also see how it looked in colour, blending a mono conversion to help bring out the texture in the walls.  In the end I think I like them equally but what do you think – B&W or colour?!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

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